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Episode Thirty Three

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Monstrous Agonies E33S01 Transcript

H.R. Owen

Hello, friends, Hero here. Just a quick reminder to get your questions in for our end of season Q&A. Send them in by email, or through Patreon, Twitter or Tumblr, and see the show notes for details.

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Thirty Three.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-sometimes-”, pop music, and a voice saying “-aye 'cause it's good, it's good-”before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-nocturnality is fully upon us.

It's time now for our advice segment, and I'm happy to say we're getting back to our usual routine after last week's interference.

It seems last week's letters had already been selected before the incident in question. They appeared at the desk fairly soon after last week's programme and, well, if I'm honest they've been giving me the most fantastic headaches. I think it's because they're overdue. I haven't felt this bad since '46, when I lost a letter down the back of my desk and had migraine for a week until I found it and got it properly answered.

So. The sooner we get through this little backlog, the better. First up – a listener wondering how to interpret an act of kindness.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I've never done this before, so please forgive me if I go on a bit.

To give some context, I'm a human, though I've always been on friendly terms with the creature community and have plenty of friends from all sorts of genuses. But before I get into my question, I need to explain that I lost my husband a few years back. It's been... hard since then. We'd been together a long time and if I'm honest, I haven't been managing. It's been a struggle, financially and emotionally.

So when I get a letter out of the blue telling me my great-aunt, Isa, has passed away and left me her house in Shetland, I took that as a sign to have a break, somewhere different and new.

The village is lovely and the people more so. Naturally, a bit cautious of a newcomer from the mainland, but I think they're more forgiving given their fondness for my Aunt Isa.

Everyone's been so kind and the local solicitor – an older gentleman – even offered to help with the formalities regarding Aunt Isa’s house gratis. He's been so generous with his time and his work, helping me wrangle the paperwork and legal loopholes, which has taken such a weight off my shoulders. It’s also been… nice, just to have someone to talk to as well.

Anyway, word may have got around about my circumstances. I'm not saying I'm a tragic widow or anything, but sometimes... [sighs] People can tell, I think.

I hate asking for help, which only makes matters worse, especially when I kept getting calls and letters from the mainland regarding bills and fees and various other little catastrophes I had come to the island to avoid. But it's a small town, and when one person knows the news, everyone knows.

So after a particularly miserable night, I get woken up at the crack of dawn by screeching seagulls and something smashing. Gave me the fright of my life, I can't even tell you. I went dashing outside the cottage and there, under the windowsill, there was a shattered plate, shreds of clingfilm and what looked like the remains of some fresh fish, utterly mangled by the seagulls.

Strange, but I didn't really give it too much thought, what with everything that had been happening. The next day, the seagulls were screaming again.

But this time when I hurried out, there was a sealed plastic box on the window-ledge. This time, it was secured with a brick on the lid and - once more - packed with fresh fish.

Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate some nice fresh cod as much as the next person, but I was a bit baffled about where it was coming from and why it was being left on my window ledge. I made some inquiries in the village shop - carefully, as I didn't want to offend anyone - and the shopkeeper gave me a knowing smile and said that my gentleman friend was a... very traditional sort of person.

This came as a surprise and the more I thought about it, the more I fear I'm reading a little too much into it. I don't know if this is an inappropriate thing to say, given his genus, but [laughing] he's a bit of a silver fox. Very dapper, very polite, always beautifully groomed whenever he visits. I really don't know if this is a precursor to courtship or simply compassion from a kind man who knew I had been struggling.

It's been a very, very long time since I had had to deal with the concept of romantic overtures, and the last few years I had never even considered it. I'm very out of touch with what is the norm and more so for members of the creature community. I'm not... averse to it, if that's what is going on. He's a lovely man and has been so generous and kind.

But what if this is purely cultural? What if I am seeing a flirtation when there isn't one? How do I test the waters without ruining the friendship we have?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I'm so happy to hear that you're being welcomed in to your new community. It's never easy, starting fresh in a new home, and it sounds as if the people around you are doing their best to make it as painless as possible.

I can't say decisively whether your friend intends these gestures to be romantic or if they're meant as platonic acts of kindness. It may be he's not entirely sure himself.

The line between platonic and romantic intimacy is not as well-defined as we might sometimes believe. But that' s no bad thing. After all, any sound romantic partnership ought to have friendship at its heart.

We often use traditions as a way of navigating otherwise difficult situations. Your friend is using the wisdom of his forebears to say something he might not otherwise feel able to – that he cares about you, that he wants to look after you, and that your relationship, platonic or otherwise, is important to him.

I think the best course of action is to give him some time. You say you're not exactly looking for anything romantic, so there's no urgency in pursuing the matter. If that changes and you feel you really need to know one way or the other, you'll just have buckle up and talk to him, I'm afraid.

But until then, he seems to be someone who prefers to do things the old fashioned way. I say, sit back, relax, and let yourself be thoroughly wooed.

And if it turns out he doesn't mean this as a romantic gesture, you can enjoy your burgeoning friendship, and the knowledge there's someone here who really cares for you.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

In association with the Ephemeral Bazaar, the country's leading marketplace for evanescent supplies. Coming sometime to the corner of your eye.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Oh, that's a relief. I'm already feeling a bit better. Though I, I think it's this second that's really pressing at me. The pressure builds every time I look at it. Must be a more urgent question, I suppose.

So. Onwards. Tonight's second letter is from someone asking a-about... A... Asking about... What...? [a blast of static]

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I've got a pretty simple one for you here. Or, the answer is simple – just yes or no, really. The question's a bit more complicated, but they always are, aren't they?

I met this guy. [laughing] God, how many people's problems have started with that sentence. We met at a party, just one of those chance encounters.

He, uh. Well he's involved in some, uh... Well, I don't, I don't think anything he does is illegal, but I think it might be like how lesbians weren't ever really technically illegal? Like it's more a matter of the law hasn't quite caught up with what he's doing.

Honestly? I don't care. Sorry. Not very moral and upstanding of me, but there you go. Some people I know are the type to tie themselves in knots about, oh, don't buy from that company, they don't pay a living wage, or don't eat that, it's made out of a crop that gives honeybees plaque or something.

I just can't care on that scale, you know? I'm not a bad person. I don't think that makes me a bad person. I try to be good to the people around me. I recycle. Mostly. But all that big picture thinking [sighs] It's just not for me.

Which is why I need your advice, really. Because this is a big picture problem. The biggest picture, really.

This guy. He knows how to... do things. I don't mean your normal kind of “manifest intent” kind of thing, I mean like, things. Big things. God, the- the stuff he's showed me...

And he knows things. Before they happen. He says he can see the lines of it, the, the trajectories of all our decisions.

He says I'm gonna die.

Well, we're all gonna die. But he says for me it's... It's soon. Very soon.

But he can stop it, he says he can rearrange things if I want him to. He can make it so I live forever – for real, forever. He can make me... a constant. Only to do so, something else has to go.

He's made me an offer. I live, and in exchange, he wipes [static] out of existence. Completely gone. No more [static] or [static] or even [static].

And I, I don't know. That sounds like a pretty good deal, right? I mean it's not like anyone will notice. It's not like [static] will suddenly disappear and leave a big hole where it ought to be. It just won't ever have been. We'll just be living in a universe where [static] never existed to begin with.

But [sighs] like I said, I'm not good at that big picture stuff. It feels like there should be a catch somewhere, right? So. What do you think? Do I do it?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I... I... [sighs] For what it's worth, my answer would have been no. It would have been a resounding and unconditional no. No, you do not alter the fabric of the universe for your own gains. No, immortality is not worth the untold consequences a decision like this could have. Has had. No, you should not trust this man.

I mean there's, there's no proof whatsoever that what he says is even true. You're just taking his word for it that you're going die soon. No explanation, no diagnosis, no reason given at all! And besides which, there are so many more straightforward paths to immortality.

[sighs] I don't know his angle is. He sounds like a nasty piece of work, preying on your fears in order to bring about his own purposes. But I, I can't see what those purposes would be. Or why anyone with this kind of power – I've rarely heard the like – would use it for such seemingly frivolous ends.

Of course, it would be easier to fathom if I knew what it was he had exchanged for your immutable existence. Unless... Unless it's something to do with you, in particular?

It would be easy to be angry with you, listener. And I am. You've made a selfish choice and for all your claims that, oh, big picture thinking is so difficult for you, I feel it really doesn't take an enormous feat of imagination to realise what an inadvisable course of action this was. You could have at least waited until I had chance to reply.

But, there's the rub. I couldn't reply in time. Because somebody was playing silly buggers. It was one thing when I thought the only consequences were minor inconveniences to me. But this? This cannot be allowed to stand. I... I have some preparations to make.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM.

[Background music fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through unintelligible speech, pop music and classical music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Thirty Three of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

This episode's first letter was submitted by Fyre, and the second was based on a suggestion by Catriona. Thanks, friends!

Although the season is coming to an end, we are still open for submissions to put into Season Two. So if you've got a letter or a suggestion you'd like to see us explore, head over to our website at, email us at, find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies or on Twitter @Monstrous_Pod.

Hello and thank you to our latest supporters on Patreon, Fyre and Rebecca. You also join them at

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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